Daily Archives: April 27, 2008

Iraq’s Political Machinations

[ Editor’s Note: Pisht-Ashan (spelt in various ways) can be found in the northern corner of Iraq near the borders of Turkey and Iran. It is in mountainous terrain and the massacre there in 1983 is the subject of current speculation in the Iraqi press].

Massacre in Pisht-Ashan — May Day, 1983

In the days leading up to 1st May 2008 the Iraqi media has focused on a massacre committed by Jalal Al-Talabani’s forces in Pisht-Ashan valley of northern Iraq on 1st May 1983.

KurdistanThe current President of Iraq, Jalal Al-Talabani was supported by Saddam Hussein.

They were allies in late 1982.

In this crime the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani and assisted by No-Shirwan Mustafa killed 83 communist women and men (as well as comrades from allied groups) who were preparing for the celebration of 1st May in their camp from where they were fighting against Saddam’s regime.

The valley of Pisht-Ashan was headquarters of the Communist Party of Kurdistan and on that day Kurdish members of the Iraq Communist Party, had joined members of the Communist Party of Kurdistan for the 1st May celebration of workers of the world.Photo of Jalal Al-Talabani agreeing to be allied with Saddam Hussein in late 1982

The present media campaign focuses on the fact that Talabani was an ally of Sadaam and the crimes he committed in 1983 followed agreement between Talabani and Sadaam on the methods used.

Eyewitnesses from the families of 87 victims barbarically slaughtered gave accounts of raped girls cut horribly & burnt in this horrible crime.

The published appeals to bring Jalal Talabani to justice are an embarrassment to the present government of Iraq.

One question is why a militia of the government of Iraq of 2008 recently slaughtered captives at Nasiriya instead of charging them with crimes and then putting them on trial – is it because the present Iraq government is in agreement with the same methods, procedures and policies used by Talabani at Pisht-Ashan when he was Saddam’s ally in 1983?

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan received aerial intelligence from Saddam’s intelligence corps before the 1983 attack on Pisht-Ashan. Then mercenary militias hired by the Iraq government bombed the resistance posts using warplanes and cannons in preparation for the final attack by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani and assisted by No-Shirwan Mustafa.

Talibani’s militia received financial support, food, medicine and weapons from Saddam Hussein – their wounded were treated in Iraqi hospitals. The fall of the fascist regime opens the opportunity to access documents held by the fascist government on the events of Pisht-Ashan and to gather declarations and submissions from those involved.

Saddam Hussein has been judged and executed for slaughtering 148 people in Dujail City. In the same year as this Dujail City massacre 87 victims were also slaughtered at Pisht-Ashan.

It is hypocritical that one has been judged and the other not?

In the tense political situation in Iraq following the attacks on Basra and Al-Sadr City, this media campaign has arisen because of a number of issues that link the events in Pisht-Ashan in 1983 with the events in Al-Sadr city in 2008. These issues are considered in the following articles:


Statement by the Sons and Daughters of Besieged Sadr City

In Memory of the Pisht-ashan Massacre
Pisht-ashan and Sadr City – the criminal is still at large.

Talabani’s bloody terrorist and racist militia connect the 1st May 1983 Pisht-ashan massacre of Iraqi insurgents opposed to Saddam Hussein’s fascist regime with the massacres perpetrated now in Sadr City by US forces with substantial support from Jalal Talabani’s Peshmerga militia. The current President of Iraq who is the leader of the largest militia Iraq has ever had is asking for all militias to be disbanded except for his own militia, of course!

On the day that our brothers were martyred in Pisht-Ashan the prisoners were divided according to their ethnicity into groups of ethnic Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians, etc and separated out from those Kurds who would agree to join Talabani’s militia – this last group were eventually released but all the others were killed in a horrific way.

This scenario was repeated in Sadr City in 2008!

If the prisoner was an ethic Arab Iraqi or Turkmen then his house was demolished and his sons were killed but Kurds were given the choice of death if they would reject fascism, occupation and treason, or release for those who would agree to join Talabani’s militia.

The treatment of prisoners in Sadr City were the same as those in Pisht-ashan!

The perpetrator in Pisht-ashan is the same perpetrator as in Sadr City!”

We in the Sadr City condemn the silence of the ruling political forces and demand accountability and judgment for the perpetrators of this crime before of the Iraqi justice system or before an international court. We call for the following:

  1. The survivors of the massacre to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights and to the human rights committees in Geneva and to other organizations making a clear statement about this crime that prisoners were marked for death on a racist basis of ethnicity and that the perpetrators received the direct support from Saddam’s regime.
  2. Brothers and sisters who have direct relationships with Communist Parties abroad and with the international press should expose this crime and these criminals and pressure the Baghdad government for the extradition of the killers, including Jalal Talabani and No-Shirwan Mustafa, to the Courts of International Justice (in the Hague).
  3. To obtain from the international police Interpol an arrest warrant for Jalal Talibani and for No-Shirwan Mustafa and other perpetrators and to bring them to an international tribunal or to an Iraqi court that is independent of the occupation.
  4. To strive to follow up this case of Pisht-Ashan and not to forget it, in order to serve justice and the just rights of the martyrs of Pishtashan

(AlBadeel Iraq’s Alternative Iraqi retains the names and addresses of the Sons and Daughters of Besieged Sadr City Sons who sent this statement “In Memory of the Beshtashan Massacre”)


Open Letter: The file on Pisht-Ashan (Besht-ashaan) – bring this crime to justice

We are a group of survivors of the 1st May 1983 Beshtashan massacre and families of fallen martyrs and their colleagues, friends and sympathizers. The massacre claimed the lives of dozens of martyrs who were opponents of the former fascist regime.

We call on leaders of the Iraqi Communist Party and the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Socialist Party and of all parties and personalities that suffered aggression and massacre at the hands of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani and Mustafa No-Shirwan and other elements that led and carried out the dastardly attack to provide all documentation and information and facilitate meetings and interviews with victims and their families, to open the file again and submit it to an Iraqi independent tribunal, and if conditions to achieve this are not available now then to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and EU courts, and any State that accepts such cases.

We have had wide legal consultation in the preparation of this case file, and will involve a number of lawyers and civil society institutions and human rights organizations and will cooperate with the democratic media across the world.

We focus on the following points in the case file and the indictment:

The personal responsibility for Jalal Talabani in the planning process and in issuing direct orders for military attack and for carrying out mass killings, particularly the orders for killing of prisoners. Jalal Talabani still boasts of this crime, did not apologize, but considers it a militarily significant achievement.

There was coordination politically and militarily and the sharing of intelligence between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the fascist authority of Saddam Hussein; there was private and direct coordination between the criminal dictator Saddam Hussein and Jalal Talabani in the implementation of the massacre Pist-ashan, via intermediaries such as Barazan Al-Takriti (the brother of Saddam who has already been executed) who was directly invoved in the planning and coordination of air-attacks by private militia preceding the massacre by Talibani’s forces.

The Patriotic Union Kurdistan received massive weaponry and modern military aid, financial aid, refuelling, medical assistance, and their wounded were transported to both military and civilian Iraqi hospitals.

Involvement of government forces in air reconnaissance and monitoring, and units of the army assisted the mercenaries who bombed with aircraft and heavy artillery in preparation for the dastardly attack on Pistashan.

The fall of the fascist regime provides an opportunity to view all documents relating to this issue, and collect testimony from all parties and persons, also review some old arguments excusing the use of power from these positions.

The silence of some parties on the crime does not mean in any way the case is closed completely; we have the right to individually and collectively provide files for judiciary assessment.

We have had the opportunity and possibility of newly opening all the outstanding issues and detect violations of all previous attempts to address the case legally.

NOTE: Those who want to testify and provide information and documents, should temporarily conceal their names until the delivery of certificates, information and documents has been delivered to a suitable court of justice.

The names of 74 Signatories to this appeal (who are survivors, eyewitnesses and family members of those martyred) are listed at


The Stark Truth about Pisht-Ashaan / Response to Nu Shirwan Mustafa

clip_image002By: Ahmed Nassiri

(In a recent interview on Baghdadiya TV No-Shirwan Mustapha rejected the evidence and even denied being involved, then justified the massacre as a “military action”.)

1st May 2008 is the 25th anniversary of the dastardly and barbaric massacre of Pisht-Ashaan carried out by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan led by Jalal Talabani and assisted by No-Shirwan Mustafa, on the 1st May 1983, against the headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party (Haca) and the Socialist Party of Kurdistan (Hasakah), located in the Mount Qandil region, during which dozens were martyred and prisoners killed, and hundred retreated across the Qandil mountain range after the seizure of all the major headquarters, and considerable material loss of all we had there.

The article is long and detailed – the reader will need good Arabic skills to read this article.


About the massacre at Pisht-Ashan (Besht-Ashaan)

We could not forget the crime.

By: Naseer Awwad


This essay on the Pisht-Ashan (Besht-Ashaan) massacre is by Naseer Awad, brother of the martyred Nasser Awad (called “Abu Sahra” meaning “Father of the Desert” who fought boldly and died in the massacre.

Shame to the perpetrators for the excessive blood-letting of the martyrs … Alternative Iraqi.

We simply call for the case to be put before the Iraqi justice system to clarify the facts and honour our martyrs of the homeland.

Ridiculous that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remembers with Iranian President (as was stated) on a visit to Iraq recently concerning the struggle against the Baathist dictatorship, but the Iraqi President and his advisers do not remember the victims who were killed on orders directly from the President of Iraq himself.

When it is the turn of the families of the martyrs and their friends and colleagues to turn to their memories of suffering, the story is representative of the Iraqi political turmoil in the last quarter of the last century.

Ignoring the Besht-Ashaan massacre, feigning ignorance or weakness of memory and putting the blame on others, will lead to political reactions by witnesses and their comrades who fought with them and survived.



After a quarter century, the crime at Pisht-Ashan raises an invitation to tell the truth, and expose the killers. (Author:) Mohsen Al-Jelawi

On the first of May we remember the massacre at Pisht-Ashan, over a quarter century since such a heinous racist crime but it is still fresh in the memory of those who survived, and it is fresh in the minds of many Iraqis….

Such dark days of Iraq’s history are mirrored in the contemporary history.

We have a duty to our friends and comrades and colleagues of the martyrs and all friends of the writers, intellectuals and families of the victims and all who stands against racism and underdevelopment, murder and criminality to make this event, specifically on 1st May of this year an occasion worthy of the great exploits of the martyrs and expose the perpetrators including the current president of Iraq!

See the link below for photos showing / group of martyrs of the massacre, including the martyr of Pisht-ashan “Abu Sahar” Nasser Awad WEDDING / worker mechanics of Diwaniyah:
http://web.comhem.se/kut/Beshtashan.htm http://web.comhem.se/kut/Beshtashan.htm


The Capture of the head of the Ba’ath Party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri?

The Telegraph [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/] is among many news agencies including Al-Arabiya that reports on the purported arrest by Iraqi government forces of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the vice-chairman of Saddam’s Ba’ath party and the King of Clubs on America’s “deck of cards” most-wanted list.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/24/wiraq124.xml

On 3 January 2007 the website of the banned Iraqi Ba’ath Party confirmed that ‘Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri (al-Duri) had become the leader of the Ba’ath Party.

According to the BBC (and other sources) Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri as deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces held a senior post on the committee responsible for northern Iraq when chemical weapons were used in 1988, killing thousands of Kurds at Halabja. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4434092.stm

The US military in Baghdad told AFP in an email:

“At this point, we can say that he is not in coalition custody and we have no reports that he was captured by Iraqi security forces either.”

See http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j9BpJW_D_ebCcFMlKdnABIcRMy8g

Abu Mohammed, who was described as Duri’s representative in Syria, told Al-Arabiya that the report was fabricated.

Al-Arabiya quoted “US forces” as saying the person captured “looks like” Duri.

Editor’s Note: Language and urgency account for poor translation from the Arabic in these reports.

Where possible original sources have been given for those with the resources to obtain better translation.

This is a voluntary service performed without funding from any agency.

In remarks to the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat published on Wednesday, the Iraqi national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie said Duri was in Syria from where he has led, since October 2007, an alliance of 22 Iraqi insurgent groups called “The Jihad and Liberation.”

See http://www.alalam.ir/english/en-NewsPage.asp?newsid=032030120080424085439

Al-Fahd News displays a photo shown below


showing Jalal Talibani (Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kudistan) at the right hand side of Saddam Husayn’s number two man, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri (father-in-law of Saddam Husayn’s son Uday at that time, al-Duri was Head of the Baa’th Party Regional Command and Vice President of the Revolutionary Command Council), and at al-Duri’s left hand side in the photo is ‘Ali Hasan al-Majid (known as “Chemical ‘Ali”), cousin of Saddam Husayn.

Ali Hasan al-Majid had unlimited emergency powers in Kurdish areas from March to September 1988 as the official in charge of the Anfal, (Al-Anfal was the 1988 campaign by Saddam Husayn’s regime to eliminate the Kurds as a threat to the government and to punish them for cooperating with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.

The campaign was marked by mass executions and disappearances; the destruction of 2000 villages and over a dozen larger towns; the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Kurds; the destruction of the rural Kurdish economy and infrastructure; and some 40 documented cases of the use of chemical weapons. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 Kurds were killed or disappeared. Human Rights Watch called the Anfal campaign a genocide.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri’s Jihad and Liberation alliance has laid down a series of principles for talks with the U.S. including that the “enemy” should agree to unconditionally withdraw their forces from Iraq, immediately or according to a brief time table, the release of all detainees, return of the security forces to their status before the occupation and to cease all operations against the people.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izzat_Ibrahim_ad-Douri

Besides Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri’s alliance of Ba‘athists, Nationalists and other Sunni Muslim groups, other main groupings of the Iraqi Resistance and armed militias are:

  • the Iran-linked Shia Badr Brigade (now supporting the Iraq government and occupation forces);
  • the Mahdi Army including the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr;
  • the grouping of socialist revolutionaries including the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance;
  • the nonviolent resistance groups and political parties that are opposed to the occupation and its puppet Iraqi government but are not part of the armed insurgency;
  • the Iraqi Sunni Islamists and remnants of the Kurdish Ansar-al-Islam; and
  • the foreign Sunni Wahhabi Islamists including those often linked to al-Qaeda.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_Resistance

Comment: The original article announcing the capture was titled: “The Capture of the head of the Ba’ath Party, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri?

The title is very wrong – we know from the article itself that he was not captured at all!

The main point of the article is the amazing picture from 1984 showing Talibani, al-Duri and Chemical Ali in cameraderie and then the shock when you think of where these guys are today – Kurdish leader, Talibani, now the President of Iraq, al-Duri leading an alliance of 22 Iraqi insurgent groups called “The Jihad and Liberation” and Chemical Ali on death row in Iraq!

Nobody knows the point of the obviously false reports being put out out about Al-Duri’s “capture” and then the immediate disclaimers by the very people who would want us to to believe they were having success capturing insurgent leaders!

A better title would be “Talibani, al-Duri and Chemical Ali before the Anfal – and where are they today?”

Talisman Sabre 2007 & 2009

Wherefore the Peace Movement — recollections of Talisman Sabre 07, and speculation about the state of the “peace” “movement”.

by Brian Law

Editor’s Note: This article takes up where “Peace Convergence” left off. In part this is in response to a request from Ciaron O’Reilly [Please note that the comments thread for “Peace Convergence” has been closed and any further comment can been placed here].

image The Pine Gap 4 were sentenced in Alice Springs on 14 June 2007, and I’d been expecting to spend some months in prison. Instead we got fines, and time to pay, so I travelled down to Rockhampton and Yeppoon for the Peace Convergence just to observe what happened and offer limited support to Adele, Jessica and June – and their friends.

Jessica and June had been at our trial, and were planning to enter the exercise area and try to curtail parts of the exercise through their presence on site.

By the time I arrived there were perhaps 80 activists at Yeppoon, and 8 of them had entered the site on the morning of the day I arrived. The mass activities were planned for the weekend in four days time, and each day more people were arriving. Busloads were coming on Friday. Maybe 700 had arrived for the Saturday.


1/ I’d only followed the organising process vaguely, because I was caught up in the PG4 trial preparations, but I recall the dates of the convergence were chosen to fit in with University holidays – and thereby boost the numbers of students who could catch the buses from Sydney and Brisbane.

I was shocked when I arrived at the Rockhampton Airport, and checked out the temporary Australian Army base on Western Road near the airport, that all of the materiel needed for the exercise (tanks, trucks, artillery, personel) had already been moved from the temporary base to the exercise area – leaving no easy and visible targets for blockade action during preparation for the wargames. Given that the convergence would be ending three weeks before the wargames, this severely limited the availability of direct actions in which significant numbers of people could participate.

This was the first weakness that I spotted. A focus on “mass” participation had been allowed to set a timetable which didn’t incorporate opportunities for strong direct action.

2/ I also noticed when I arrived that there were plenty of US servicemen at the Rockhampton Airport hanging out at the cafes and shops ‘cos it was close to the Western Road camp, within walking distance. The only other US personnel I saw during the week were officers staying at the Capricornia Resort (where I also stayed). There was no discussion about talking with/leafleting service personnel during the exercise, I think because the focus was on the Shoalwater Bay Training Area – and this was reinforced by the strong attention on environmental issues rather than peace issues.

While I understand this emphasis – and it is appropriate to a certain degree (both inherently and because local support in Yeppoon, Bifield and Rockhampton is itself strongly environmental) it meant that valuable opportunities were passed up. (Rockhampton Airport, Capricornia Resort, and Gladstone Port where US ships docked and off-loaded).

3/ There was no analysis of the goals of the mass action, apart from a vague notion of media coverage and winning general community approval for peace actions. The organising centrepiece in Yeppoon was an “embassy” set up in a local shopping centre which was meant to become an organising hub and meeting place for action, education and public relations.

Local activists spent enormous energy and funds to get this centre up and running, but it wasn’t very effective for reasons both within and without their control.

A central failing was the lack of telephone lines, because Telstra was just unable to provide them in time. So media work and internet work was hobbled somewhat.

Another was the noisy nature of the space which made conversation and organising very trying, and led to lots of hairy people milling about in the corridors, which brought serial rebukes from the shopping centre operators.

The embassy was a central place to meet people, but having met them I did all my business elsewhere. I had some money so I shouted the media team a hotel room with a dial-up internet connection so they had somewhere quiet to work.

It has to be said that a small core of local organisers did outstanding work arranging venues and facilities for the public meetings and rallies conducted in Yeppoon.

4/ A central ongoing weakness lay in piss-poor organising and facilitation processes for those who travelled to the Convergence. Organisers from Brisbane facilitated everything in one big group so that there were meetings of more than 100 people trying to discuss crowded and complex agendas with insufficient time and attention.

Undisciplined egos threw many spanners in the works at these meetings, and facilitators would delay starting times to allow stragglers to attend without missing anything. Twice I witnessed groups of 100 being asked to wait one or two hours while a “busload” was on its way. It amounted to an abuse of many folks time and energy.

The ideas of task groups, small groups, and spokes and wheel decision-making has been around for more than 30 years, but it’s clear that peace organisers in Brisbane have never learned them or skilled up in using them.

5/ There were two set-piece “mass” “actions” – a gathering at the green gate on Saturday, and a march through town to a concert/speak-out on Sunday.

The gathering at Green gate was affected by advance notice which allowed Police to establish a road-block some 8 kilometres from the actual gate, and there were no convoys of war machinery to address. Nevertheless some 100 folk made the long walk against Police direction to the gate where they attacked the wire until calmed down by police liaison and nonviolent activists. The Police allowed them to be bussed back because of exhaustion, and participants felt good to have defied the police and made the journey, but there was little real intervention.

The march and concert on Sunday was carnivalesque and a successful feel-good action. Very colourful, with some excellent speakers, and the first warm sunny day of the whole affair.

As well there was a public meeting which I missed, filled with academic and movement speakers along with indigenous speakers from Guam and Hawaii who addressed the impact of US militarisation on their home Islands. There was also participation from local indigenous representatives.

Finally there was a concert on the Saturday night which I also missed because I was picking up and driving home some of the direct activists who’d trespassed in the exercise area and been arrested.


The mass program dominated proceedings, and made for a busy time for both the local organisers/supporters, and anyone who came for the convergence.

The timing of the Convergence ensured that most attendees would not have a chance to experiment with direct action. There was no place established for training in or discussion of direct action, and I take some responsibility for that and intend to correct it somewhat in 2009.

I suspect that the mass program attracted so much organising energy because it was assumed by key leaders to be central to social change, although it didn’t feel very purposive or powerful to me. The Mass program had significant direct impact on Yeppoon and Bifield in that it created a presence and a talking point across the community.

Given travel costs and other expenses for out-of-town participants, I have questions about how cost-effective the mass program was. I think that public meetings and rallies in the Capital cities and regional centres people came from, along with affinity group actions, could have been more effective in spreading the word and building resistance nationally – and some of that was done in Brisbane and Sydney in advance of the Convergence.


There were a half dozen or so affinity groups that took autonomous action during the Convergence.

Two of these were support groups that enabled better functioning of the Convergence as a whole:

The street theatre/Chai tent that provided colourful banners, costumes and set-dressings as a part of every action/public event. Bennie Zable was instrumental in this group, and;

Food Not Bombs which provided cheap nutritious hot meals for Convergees.

Four were direct action affinity groups. Two groups of four medium term trespassers, One group of five short-term trespassers, and a group associated with the cultural group Combat Wombats that locked onto a US truck at a major intersection in Rockhampton.

The first three groups were either explicitly Christian or heavily influenced by Christian values. The Samuel Hill 5 designed an action to re-inforce the two medium term groups. The fourth was independent and, so far as I guess, secular.

In terms of media attention the action groups commanded the lion’s share, for considerably less expense than any of the mass actions. Personal costs were higher.

There was room for improvement in the medium term trespass actions. One group got wet in 1 degree temperatures. There was no prior liaison with ADF or Defence, and the Army’s first reaction was to label the actions a hoax and proceed regardless. A senior bureaucrat in Defence Brisbane was contacted a day later, and began inquiries to determine risk to activists. He asked for evidence that anyone was in the exercise area and was supplied with video from David Bradbury and the actual undeniable presence of the Samuel Hill 5. Which, along with a missing person’s report to Police, changed the dynamic of trespass and got the Army as well as Police actively involved in a search.

All offenders have now been tried. Four of the Samuel Hill 5 were convicted on 24 April 2008, had many nice things said about them by the Magistrate, and were given 6 month good behaviour bonds, in default $500.


Call me prejudiced, ‘cos I only saw them in meetings, but there were 120 or so semi-feral Convergees who organised pickets and other symbolic protests, including symbolic trespass, around nearby fences and gates attended by Police, and generally with the Army well out of sight.

These people have a resistance to Capitalism and oppression built in to lifestyle. They also have an impulse to “one big organism”, so that everyone joins in one big action. It does however have to be one big action which is convenient to them. Not too early in the morning, not too strenuous, low risk, and with lots of counter cultural elements. Lots of Chai and heroism. Like I said, I didn’t get too close to these people. None of them stayed at the Capricornia Resort.


I think Ciaron’s criticisms of David Bradbury and the culture of celebrity are partly valid, but drawn too harshly. In part Ciaron has a distracting emotional involvement that leads him to condemn David Bradbury in particular, and makes him unavailable for problem solving.

Rather than condemning celebrity in particular, I think the key problem is mired in how “leadership” is seen and articulated in the peace movement, and how diversity and conflict is handled.

Because so much of the “mass” movement is composed of white middle class folk there’s an unquestioning acceptance of white middle class leadership. So that David Bradbury’s call for marchers to wear their “Sunday Best” in an attempt to structure media coverage is actually taken seriously instead of being simply disregarded.

The social system we have is by and large successful for the white middle class. They are well housed, fed, educated and included in mainstream political processes, and so it looks straightforward to them that the simple expression of political opinion will be effective if it is substantial and widely publicised.

Moreover the role of the middle class is to police and regulate the social norms, so that working class and underclass folk are held to behaviours which will not threaten social stability.

So my experience in Cairns in 2003 was that Margaret and I and friends and colleagues ran an 18 month preparation program building knowledge and tactical analysis of the coming war, and preparing for direct action and resistance when, as we predicted, majority public opinion was disregarded as the state went to war.

We encouraged those folk who wanted symbolic only action to organise independently, and in late 2002 a group emerged calling itself the Cairns Peace Coalition. That group took it on itself to condemn and interfere with our program because it was “too radical”, and didn’t show sufficient “respect for the troops” (although we had a dialogue with service-men and women and they didn’t). Apart from attacking and splitting us, nothing that group did achieved more than an isolated newspaper story, and six months after the state went to war they ceased to exist or operate. They served the Labor Party well.

I see the same kind of people active in Brisbane and Sydney Peace Groups, and certainly among the academic institutions of “Peace Studies”. These people assume they ought be in charge of a “movement” and tend to monopolise microphones wherever they are found. (alright, I’m still pissed off at being attacked by gormless fools).

I’ve learned that direct confrontation with these people is counter-productive. Similarly, but for different reasons, with the “one big happy family” lifestyle resisters. In a space like the convergence these people will organise the activities they’re happy with, and there’s no real need to challenge or criticise them for it. The “make love not war” debacle was at worst a minor blip.

The challenge is to carry out actions beyond the symbolic so as to inspire more and more people to stretch in their peace-making work. Successful nonviolence creates a tension which engages people in their spirit and emotions, not simply in their intellect.

The Pine Gap 6, the Samuel Hill 5, and the future groups at Adelaide this year, and Talisman Sabre next year, are operating with a drive and integrity that is spreading in Australia and winning more acceptance and converts. The Christian Activist Network is the most exciting nonviolence group in Australia.

It’s important to operate in some way in relation to events like the Peace Convergence. It’s essential to avoid being attacked by the middle class leadership because the resultant tension splits rather than builds a movement. We need to extend tolerance for lower order activities while continuing to demonstrate the kind of nonviolent actions that work better, and to reach out to those who are interested in becoming more powerful.

It’s a slow process. We’re starting from a position of weakness, but we are growing in numbers, sophistication, and effect.


On a tactical level the Convergence functioned more or less effectively across all levels.

There is much room for improvement in organising. There is much room for improvement in movement building. I’d suggest that we could easily make a four-fold increase in “productivity” in 2009 for the same kind of investment, and without asking anyone to change their plans or analysis.

My thinking is to establish a nonviolence presence at Yeppoon a fortnight or so before the exercise begins:

Create a training/discussion/action centre at a Holiday House or retreat centre or other facility close to transport. Encourage affinity groups to take some supported actions as targets become available. Assist with organising intelligence, networking, media, legal, training, accommodation, and follow through.

Hold regular information and video sessions for Convergees who’d like to learn more about nonviolence. Conduct panel discussions on organising and strategic issues featuring in the Convergence.